FORWARD THINKING

May 2, 2015


I’m always impressed with a person a company or even a country that exhibits forward or visionary thinking.  It says a great deal about the ability of anyone or any entity to determine future events when you decide what those events are to be; what they look like; who they affect and when they occur as far as timing.  One example of long-range thinking is the decision by Norway to “switch off” FM radio signals beginning in 2017.

Forbes magazine published an article entitled: “Norway Is Switching Off FM Radio, Starting In 2017”.  This post was written by Amit Chowdhry and published in their 20 April 2015 online magazine.

Before we go much further, let us take a look at FM or Frequency Modulation and refresh our memories as to just what that technology is all about.

FREQUENCY MODULATION

FM broadcasting is a VHF (Very High Frequency) broadcasting technology, pioneered by Edwin Howard Armstrong.  This technology uses frequency modulation (FM) to provide high-fidelity sound over broadcast radio. The term “FM band” describes the frequency band in a given country which is dedicated solely to FM broadcasting. This term is slightly misleading, as it equates a modulation method with a range of frequencies.

In telecommunications and signal processing, frequency modulation (FM) is the encoding of  information in a carrier wave by varying the instantaneous frequency of the wave. (Compared with amplitude modulation, in which the amplitude of the carrier wave varies, while the frequency remains constant.)

In analog signal applications, the difference between the instantaneous and the base frequency of the carrier is directly proportional to the instantaneous value of the input-signal amplitude.

Digital data can be encoded and transmitted via a carrier wave by shifting the carrier’s frequency among a predefined set of frequencies—a technique known as frequency-shift keying (FSK). FSK is widely used in modems and fax modems, and can also be used to send Morse code. Radio-teletype also uses FSK. Frequency modulation is used in radiotelemetryradar, seismic prospecting, and monitoring newborns for seizures via EEG. FM is widely used for broadcasting music and speech, two-way radio systems, magnetic tape-recording systems and some video-transmission systems. In radio systems, frequency modulation with sufficient bandwidth provides an advantage in cancelling naturally-occurring noise.

Now, let’s discuss the situation in Norway and what the Norwegian government has determined their course of action relative to FM.

FM and NORWAY

The Norway Ministry of Culture has announced a complete transition towards digital radio by switching off FM radio across the country.  The change will begin January 11, 2017 and end December 13, 2017.  The will introduce Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) which will offer listeners in Norway a wide range of radio channel content. DAB currently offers twenty-two (22) national channels in Norway compared to the five national channels on FM radio. About 56% of listeners in Norway use some form of digital radio every day.  This is according to a Gallup survey.

Norway is the first country to schedule a date for FM shutdown, but there are several other countries in Europe and Southeast Asia planning to switch to DAB. The change does not come as a surprise because the Norway Ministry of Culture proposed turning off FM radio four years ago. “This is considered to be an important day for everyone who loves radio. The minister’s decision allows them to concentrate resources even more upon what is most important, namely to create high quality and diverse radio-content to our listeners”, said Thor Gjermund Eriksen, the head of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, in a statement.

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation or NBC reported that the digital radio service is free over-the-air, but it requires a special receiver attachment on the listener’s end.  NBC indicated that digital radio also has partly higher population coverage than FM does, especially along roads. FM radio is about eight times more expensive to use than digital radio and is much more dependable for spreading messages in case of emergency. An estimated 7.9 million radio sets will be affected by the FM radio switch-off and twenty percent (20%) of private cars in Norway are currently equipped for digital radio.

The digital radio standard has been actively developed over the past twenty-five (25) years by European researchers. And Norway was the first country to implement the standard in 1995. In 2007, an updated form of DAB launched in Norway called DAB+. Radio broadcasters will be able to decide whether to use DAB or DAB+ transmissions.

CONCLUSION

I’m afraid our country would have hearing after hearing with the outcome being stagnation if we attempted such a move.  I know the advent of digital radio generated a great moaning and gnashing of teeth from AM and FM stations now existent in the US. Special interest seem to govern what we do in this country and only when looming disaster is on the horizon do we act.

As always, I welcome your comments.

 

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